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GPC rallies to raise mentors
Mentoring matters
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As part of its Martin Luther King Jr. holiday celebration, Georgia Perimeter College’s Newton Campus hosted a mentoring rally Tuesday, which was designed to connect students with non-profit organizations in need of volunteers.

Organizations on hand providing information to students about becoming a mentor to K-12 students were the Washington Street Community Center, Newton Mentoring Program, Jasper County Mentoring Program as well as Atlanta-based Children’s Restoration Network and Team up Mentoring Inc. in Monroe.

Bea Jackson, executive director of the Washington Street Community Center, said her center particularly needs mentors for their new Recreation Scholarship program.

Mentors for that program donate their time to attending games their mentees play in Newton County Recreation Department sports. Some need transportation as well, but Jackson said what she is really looking for is just someone who will cheer students on from the stands. She said not only does this make the student feel important but also provides motivation and the ability for family members to attend their children’s games as well.

"Most of the programs we offer have some mentoring component to them," Jackson said.

Washington Street Community Center, located just off of Ga. Highway 81 between Covington and Porterdale, offers tutoring, dance classes, autism support, band extracurricular activities and several other after-school programs.

"All we’re asking is to give an hour or two a week to spending quality time with children," Jackson said.

Not only did directors of the mentoring programs meet students interested in volunteering, they were able to meet other directors and see what their programs did for children — something Jackson said drew her to the rally at GPC.

The Jasper County Mentoring Program has been operational training mentors and linking them with students in need for three and a half years.

"The more mentors you get, the more teachers attack you in the hall and say, ‘I’ve got another child that needs it,’" said Debra Hopkins, executive director of Jasper County Mentoring, of the referral process completed within the school system.

Working closely with school guidance counselors, Hopkins locates potential students as well as trains and provides resources for mentors. JCM’s next training session will be at noon Jan. 21 at GPC in room 3430.

"Kids really need it now," Hopkins said.

The youngest of the mentoring groups, Newton County Mentoring, began training mentors beginning at the start of the 2008-09 school year. Executive Director Margaret Washington said she was pleased that more than 50 people have trained as mentors so far.

Despite the group’s growth in its first year, Washington said she still needed volunteers.

"Right now I have 12 to 15 students that I don’t have a mentor for," Washington said.

Because Washington trained under the director of Clarke County Mentoring as Hopkins did, Newton Mentoring has a very similar referral process to Jasper Mentoring. Mentors are never placed with mentees who have severe behavioral or mental disorders and must submit to a criminal background check. All activities between mentors and mentees must take place on school grounds, unless express permission is granted by the parent or guardian.

Washington carefully matches mentors with the needs of referred students. She said she recently referred a first grade girl in foster care to a mentor.

"The person referring her wanted her to have someone she could just talk with and be nurturing," Washington said, "so I am putting her with a grandmotherly type mentor."

She said mentors should be "responsible, caring, energetic" people and that male mentors are desperately needed.

"I would say that two-thirds of mentee requests are males," Washington said.

GPC nursing student and Conyers resident Yolanda Tucker knows this all too well as she ran into difficulties while searching for a mentor for her son. She said she wanted to pay it forward, by becoming a mentor herself. She left contact information at every booth at Tuesday’s rally.

"I just want to make a child feel special," Tucker said.